Health aspects of the humanitarian crisis in the Greater Darfur Region of Sudan
The situation is becoming even more critical as the rainy season sets in. Some camps will become unreachable and there will be an increased possibility of malaria and cholera outbreaks. A major increase in human resources, medical supplies, food, shelter and funds is essential to meet even the most basic needs. For health, the most urgent priorities are strengthening the provision and delivery of primary health care, establishing and/or rehabilitating health facilities in remote areas, and providing medical supplies and equipment. These are needed to respond to injuries associated with the conflict and obstetric emergencies, and to ensure safe blood transfusions.
WHO, along with other health partners, is working to scale-up interventions and presence in the Greater Darfur Region. Apart from deploying medical staff, equipment and supplies, WHO has been working tirelessly in recent months on:
- Disease surveillance and outbreak response - through an early warning system (EWARN);
- Measles vaccination campaign - the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO, and partners are launching a measles vaccination campaign targeting 2.15 million children in the Greater Darfur Region starting in mid-June 2004;
- Environmental health - WHO is supporting 172 environmental health workers to ensure that vector control, waste disposal and health promotion are in place for 310 000 people in four locations;
- Health sector coordination - In response to a request from the Government of Sudan, WHO is helping to oversee international support for public health in Darfur and coordinating the health component of a six-month UN contingency plan for the rainy season in Darfur;
- Norms and guidelines - WHO is playing an increasing role in providing norms and guidelines for health partners operating in the Greater Darfur Region on malaria, cholera, and epidemiological surveillance.
The Greater Darfur Region in western Sudan covers approximately 510 000 square kilometers (an area the size of France). The inhabitants of this harsh environment, consisting mostly of arid land, are subsistence farmers and nomadic pastoralists. Out of the 6.7 million people in this region, almost half are between six and 24 years of age. Poor and underdeveloped compared to the rest of Sudan, the Greater Darfur Region has been underserved in terms of health services, with no investment reportedly made in health care since 1990. Infant mortality is about 120 per 1000.